Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
STUDENT CENTER - BLOGS
Click Here to Visit the College Center


BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway

A helpful guide to the unspoken Broadway dress code

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
I'm obsessed with the costumes worn
by the Jagged Little Pill ensemble,
so I tried to dress in theme
when I saw the show last March
by wearing vibrant colors and patterns with
lots of accessories and statement pieces.
Also, midi skirts are the BEST
because they're comfy and super versatile.

I grew up in Pennsylvania, so traveling to New York to see a Broadway show was always a special treat. I loved getting dressed up, doing my hair and makeup, and pretending that I was rich and famous as I excitedly walked into any theater. However, when I moved to Queens last August for college, I quickly realized that my usual theatre attire was no longer practical, since getting to Manhattan involved riding public transit for about 45 minutes to an hour each way. Sitting in a crowded subway car full of strangers and walking blocks to whatever show I was seeing is definitely different than simply exiting my Midtown hotel, eating a nice dinner, and walking 5 minutes to a theater. For me personally, gone are the days of wearing heels and a short dress to see a show, especially if I am by myself.

Here are some tips that I have learned about the unspoken Broadway dress code, and what is appropriate when seeing a show based on my experiences. My best advice is to dress presentably and respectfully, which can honestly be interpreted differently by everyone, so I hope these specific examples are helpful.

Broadway theaters are ALWAYS cold. Even if it is August in NYC and you are someone who is always hot, bring a sweater or some sort of light jacket, because chances are as the lights go down and the curtain comes up, you will need it. However, sweatshirts, unless they are ones you just purchased at the show's merch stand, should be left at home.

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
When I saw Hamilton for the second time,
I knew that I wanted to get dressed up
because the show was so popular,
so I wore my favorite pair of
black strappy heels and an A-line red dress.

Comfortable shoes are a must, especially if you are trying to get tickets via rush or a cancellation line, since you will likely be waiting outside for hours and there is a chance you will be given standing room tickets. But even if you do have a guaranteed seat, standing outside before entering the theater, waiting in line for the bathroom, or walking back to your hotel will be brutal in 4 inch heels or that pair of trendy shoes you haven't broken in yet. Dr. Martens are my go-to shoes during the winter and fall because they're comfortable and hold up against snow, but I also love oxfords and any sort of boots with a block/chunky heel. In the warmer months I usually opt for solid colored sneakers or strappy sandals, but flip flops and running sneakers are a no no.

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
Rompers are my go-to outfit in the summer,
because they keep you cool in
the sweltering NYC heat
(I saw Wicked in August so it was brutal)
but look more presentable
than shorts and a tank top.

Let's talk about jeans. 2 or 3 years ago, I probably would have been irritated at the sight of someone wearing jeans to the theatre because I thought they were too casual, which meant they were disrespectful. However, I am not ashamed to admit that I have worn jeans many times to see shows in the last few months, especially because NYC in January/February is brutal and bone chillingly freezing, so the last thing I want to do is ride the subway at night wearing a skirt and tights. My only advice is to stay away from ripped jeans, and opt for darker wash if possible, and in the colder months you can layer with stylish boots and a long jacket or blazer to cover most of your legs anyways! And while we are on the topic of pants, try to find an alternative to athletic shorts or sweatpants if possible, and if you plan to wear a short skirt or dress, make sure you can sit comfortably in it for 2+ hours.

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
It was February when I saw Six,
so jeans, a turtleneck, and
my long puffer coat seemed
like the best option.
I spiced it up a little with studded boots
and a matching belt, and some fun pink lipstick!

Accessorize! I love donning fun jewelry or a chunky belt to the theatre, especially if I'm wearing something simple or am trying to make my outfit look a little more put together. But try to keep the bangles or other noisy pieces of jewelry at home, especially if you are fidgety like me, because they can be distracting to those around you.

Hats are the perfect addition to any outfit (at least in my opinion), but try to steer clear of anything tall or wide brimmed that Will Block the view of others around you, or just prepare to take it off when you get to your seat. And avoid wearing a baseball cap if possible.

For men, tuxedos or any attire considered to be black tie is unnecessary, so a nice sweater, polo shirt, or button up along with a sports coat and tie is perfect. Also try to stick with dark wash jeans, khakis, or slacks, but a stylish suit is always a great option for an evening performance if you're in the mood to really get dressed up. Dress shoes like oxfords, loafers, or boat shoes, as well as fashion sneakers, are also appropriate.

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
I personally abide by the same dress code
when seeing touring and regional productions.
I saw Anastasia in Denver a few summers ago
and wore a midi sun dress and low chunky heels.

Having a purse or bag full of essentials like a portable charger, makeup, sunglasses, a wallet, and so many more items is necessary when spending a day in NYC. But when going to see a Broadway show, try to bring a small bag that security can search quickly and that you can comfortably store on your lap or at your feet. Some sort of handheld or shoulder bag is preferable to a backpack, and remember to leave your pepper spray at home!

The unspoken Broadway dress code can be confusing for theatre-goers, especially since everyone has a different idea of what "presentable" means, and many times the only guidance given by theaters is to dress "appropriately and comfortably". Remember that the audience members around you could have traveled from another country to be in that room, had their tickets for a year, or are seeing their first Broadway show, so the experience is sacred and special for them. People also tend to forget that the performers onstage can see the audience, so by dressing in a way that makes you look confident and classy, you are honoring and respecting their craft. Also, people do tend to dress more casually for matinees, since those performances are often attended by children and families, so keep that in mind when buying tickets and packing for your next trip to the Great White Way!

BWW Blog: Dressing for Broadway
When I saw Chicago in Lancaster it was freezing, so I chose a fur jacket with a tuxedo dress and fun boots that matched the show's vibe.



Related Articles

From This Author Student Blogger: Maura Consedine